Engaging in Mindful Play
There are various definitions of mindfulness known around the world. Generally speaking mindfulness is having a full awareness of the present moment, without judgment.
We may experience various aspects of mindfulness throughout different times in our day without realizing it. If you happen to have or be around young children, they are usually experts in mindfulness - especially in mindful play - and can teach us a thing or two!
When kids play, they may not hear what is going on in the other room. They may not even hear you speaking to them over their shoulder! Contrary to what we may think, your child may not always be consciously blocking you out; they are just so engaged in what they are doing, nothing else matters in that moment.
We as adults, on the other hand, have so much on our minds, along with a never-ending to-do list, that our attention is barely ever on just one thing. In contrast, our kids are "all in" on one particular moment, until of course, their attention drifts to the next game. Nevertheless, they are still engaging in mindful moments.
Taking a Passive Role
Taking a few moments to watch our kids play is engaging in a mindful practice for ourselves. Really pay attention to the way in which your child plays, why they make certain choices, all while not engaging in judgments of how they play, what they say, or the choices they make in their play. It can be absolutely fascinating to see the creations children make or the lengths of their imagination. Being fully attentive, letting judgments go, and keeping an open heart filled with kindness and curiosity is engaging in mindfulness as you watch your child play.
Taking an Active Role
Now of course, it would be beneficial to both you and your child to actually play WITH them a few moments each day. This can still be mindful play!
Kids often do the first thing that comes to mind without hesitations. When spending time with your child, try to do the same. Instead of overthinking what “looks right” or what “makes sense,” just be present and in the moment.
In almost every aspect of a child’s life they are told what to do. When playing with your child, make a conscious effort to take their lead. Let them guide you on what to do and how to play. This may be a challenge to some! Noticing your feelings while you’re engaging in mindful play - even if they are not positive feelings - is also mindfulness. Once you notice those feelings, you can name them, and simply let them go and return to the play.
Engaging in mindful play with your child has many benefits including:
Practicing mindfulness: being fully present in the moment
Learning more about your child
Relaxing while you forget your daily stressors for a few moments
Laughing - which has tons of benefits of its own!
And most importantly, it strengthens the parent-child relationship!
While play will look different at each stage of a child’s development, it still benefits both parents and children to engage in play together, whether a child is 7 months, 7 years old, or even 17! From stuffed animals, to Legos, to Uno cards, enjoy the time with your children... while they’re still kids!
Helping you Learn, Grow & Inspire... Mindfully,
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Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is an Educator and Licensed Professional Counselor with nearly two decades of experience in working with children and families. She is the CEO of Free to Be Mindful - located in Ridgefield, NJ - which provides counseling and mindfulness education for kids, parents and educators.
Vanessa has been featured on the Today Show and is passionate about helping others Learn, Grow & Inspire… all with mindfulness in mind.